University of Vermont

The Honors College

Past Honors College Faculty Seminars - 2004–2011

Past Seminars and their Success

1. Making Ethical Choices. Led by Profs. Alan Wertheimer (Political Science) and Don Loeb (Philosophy).

This seminar was held on August 16-18, 2004, just prior to arrival of the first class of Honors College students, bringing together 34 faculty members. A centerpiece of the first-year curriculum for the incoming students was the common course, "Making Ethical Choices: Personal, Public, Professional," also designed by Profs. Wertheimer and Loeb. The goal of the faculty seminar was to introduce the course's themes to faculty members and to explain the experience that incoming students would have in the upcoming years. The teachers of the course were able to see how their proposed curriculum would be received. Another outcome of the faculty seminar was to gather together faculty with an interest in ethical matters on whom the Honors College could draw on to teach, or to deliver plenary lectures to, the first-year course in later years. At least three of the participants later presented plenary lectures, two others became instructors for the course, and there were other collaborations that ensued (e.g., serving on thesis committees, in teaching, and the like).

In response to a survey, faculty members revealed that they strongly valued the seminar as a professional experience and in particular rated the discussion and interaction with colleagues highly. They also felt that the three-day format was just about right although a number of participants thought that having as many as 34 faculty members made the seminar too big. A faculty member summed up the experience as follows: "I really enjoyed meeting colleagues I'd never have otherwise, and especially enjoyed meeting them in a context of intellectual discussion (as opposed to the more typical contexts of faculty meetings or committees, which often revolve around mundane technicalities)." Quotes such as this were common in responses to surveys for all three seminars.

More information:
The View Article, "High on Honors"

2. Quality of Life: What is It, How Do We Measure It, and How Do We Enhance it? Led by Prof. Robert Costanza (Gund Institute for Ecological Economics).

This seminar, held on August 15-17, 2005, convened 19 faculty members to discuss the concept of the quality of life. The seminar had a very different goal from the Ethics seminar, which was trying to support the first-year ethics course. In this case the faculty members put together their expertise and set apart their differences to write a paper together on the topic of the seminar. The participants did complete a draft by the end of the seminar; further work in the following semester resulted in a publication in Ecological Economics. *

The surveys reveal almost the same pattern of responses as for the first seminar: the seminar was a valuable professional experience and led to excellent interaction with colleagues. The discussions, which because of the amount of writing involved had to be curtailed, were not rated as highly. Participants nonetheless valued the project of writing a publishable paper in three days. The paper and the collaboration it represented were the main valuable outcomes of this seminar.

More information:
News story
*Ecological Economics

3. Museums. Let by Janie Cohen (Director, Fleming Museum) and Evelyn Hankins (Curator, Fleming Museum).

This seminar, held on August 14-16, 2006, brought together 19 faculty members to accomplish two purposes. First, to get the benefit of their expertise on problems faced by the Fleming and other museums; these included defining the role of a university museum and controversies around collecting of objects, such as repatriation and cultural patrimony. The second, larger, purpose was to introduce the Fleming's collections so that they might be integrated into faculty members' teaching. Given what might seem to be the narrow focus of the seminar, it is important to emphasize that the participants included not just those whose fields were fine arts or anthropology. In attendance were a forester, computer scientist, a nurse, a chemist, two philosophers, and an engineer. The participant list is impressive for its breadth. To ensure that the second goal might be more easily achieved, participants made presentations on the last day of the seminar showing how they would teach about particular objects. The participants asked for and then attended a follow-up meeting at the end of the academic year in which they shared their experiences. The Museum's education director says that the seminar led to a significant increase in the use of the Museum’s collections in teaching over the past year. Further, one of the seminar participants has proposed an exhibit, to be shown at the Fleming. Another participant served as a consultant for a different exhibit.

The seminar participants rated very highly, once more, the seminar as a professional experience, as an opportunity for discussion, and as a way to interact with colleagues whom they might not ordinarily come across. The teaching presentations were a highlight of the seminar.

4. A fourth seminar, Information and Knowledge in Higher Education was held on August 13-15, 2007, at the Bailey-Howe Library, under the direction of Prof. Trina Magi. The seminar included discussions on academic freedom, the information divide, online publishing, novel forms of publication (blogs, wikipedias), copyright, and plagiarism.

More information:
Summer 2007 Faculty Seminar
The View Article, "Summer Seminars Fuel Faculty Collaboration"

5. Our fifth seminar Transportation, Health and the Environment was held on August 18-20, 2008 in the Honors College multipurpose room, coordinated by Drs. Lisa Altman-Hall, Director of UVM Transportation Center, Alan Rubin, M.D., Research Associate Professor of Medicine and Psychiatry, and Richard Galbraith, Professor and Associate Dean of the UVM Medical School. In addition to a diversified group of UVM professors, a group of non-UVM professionals participated as facilitators to help tackle the questions raised by the developers of the seminar. This group included representatives from the Chittenden County Transportation Authority, Vermont Department of Health and the Planning and Zoning City Department of the City of Burlington.

Complete details:
Summer 2008 Faculty Seminar

6. The sixth seminar Food Systems, was held August 17-19, 2009. The seminar was coordinated by Amy Trubek, Assistant Professor of Food and Nutrition Sciences, and Chris Koliba, Associate Professor of Community Development and Applied Economics. It involved discussions of important texts and ideas, small group work, strategy sessions on teaching and research, forays into the local food community, and even cooking and eating as a group.

The seminar considered a systems approach to understanding all aspects of food, from its production and transportation to what we think makes a healthy meal. The seminar also examined the structure of the contemporary food system with a focus on Vermont.

Summer 2009 Faculty Seminar

October 2009 E-News Article

7. The seventh seminar "Neuroscience Beyond Biology and Medicine: The Role of Neuroscience in Non-science Disciplines" was held August 16-18, 2010. When the first President Bush declared the 1990's the "Decade of the Brain", the idea was "to enhance public awareness of the benefits to be derived from brain research". It worked. Two decades and hundreds of articles and books and PBS specials later, the American public is inarguably much more aware of the fascinating work being done by neuroscientists worldwide. But were those "consumers" equipped to deal with the science? Are the scientists? These were the questions underlying the sixth annual Honors College Faculty Seminar, held from August 16-18 and led by Professors Bill Falls and Donna Toufexis, of UVM's Department of Psychology. Both Falls and Toufexis are biobehavioral neuroscientists and part of UVM's impressive cluster of scientists from across the campus who are conducting cutting-edge research on the brain.

Summer 2010 Faculty Seminar

October 2010 E-News Article

8. The eighth seminar was concerned with a "humanities challenge" in two competing senses. First, humanities disciplines nurture our sense of the complexity of the world in part by challenging us to see it in new ways. Second, these disciplines increasingly face their own challenges posed by a new skepticism about their social or economic value. The seminar will examine these twin challenges by starting from the notion that the humanities have been at the very core of the educational mission of the modern university. The seminar will consider, on the one hand, the enduring legacy of that mission; on the other hand, it will explore the question of the survival of that mission in the context of new attempts to define it.

The coordinators of the seminar hope to foster a rich and stimulating dialogue among colleagues and to promote a university-wide conversation about the current state of the humanities. They also hope to stimulate a discussion of how ideas, modes of learning, and rhetorical practices associated with traditionally defined humanities disciplines translate into the concerns of other fields and benefit, in turn, from their alternative intellectual approaches. Finally, they hope that the professional activities of seminar participants will benefit from these exchanges. Some guiding questions for the seminar include:

Summer 2011 Faculty Seminar

October 2011 E-News Article

9. The ninth Honors College Faculty Seminar, The Legacy and Future of Morrill's Land Grant Mission, was held in the summer of 2012.

The Land Grant Act was proposed by Vermont Representative Justin Smith Morrill and signed into law in 1862 by President Lincoln. The Act gave states federal land for the purpose of establishing colleges that would "teach agriculture and the mechanic arts, in such manner as the legislatures of the States may respectively prescribe, in order to promote the liberal and practical education of the industrial classes in the several pursuits and professions in life" (37th Congress of the United States, Sess. 2, Ch. 130). Decades later additional legislation brought the cooperative extension services and agricultural experiment stations into being. These programs were intended to transfer knowledge between the land grant universities and citizens. For many, the land grant mission has come to mean the extension of educational opportunity along multiple dimensions and to include the teaching and application of practical subjects beyond the agricultural and mechanical, though, as the legislation had it, "without excluding other scientific and classical studies." Thus the meaning of the land grant mission has been interpreted as reaching beyond the strict reading of the law that was passed. This year marks the sesquicentennial anniversary of the Act. In honor of 150 years of liberal and practical education, we hold this seminar to consider the past and future of the land grant mission in Vermont, the United States, and around the globe.

Vermont has a rich history associated not only with the passage of the Act that spurred the creation of colleges and universities across the United States, but also with the implementation of the Act within our own state. Participants in this seminar will delve into this history by reading and discussing the decision to name the University of Vermont as the state's land grant college, and the evolution of the land grant mission over time. Participants will also step outside of the seminar room to consider original and archived documents in Special Collections and conduct a short field study.

The seminar considered: How might the land grant mission evolve in the next 150 years? What does our society expect and need from land grant institutions? How does the land grant mission fit with the objectives of a university? Should the land grant philosophy and ethic be interpreted globally? Or is this concept obsolete? On the final day of the seminar, faculty members will be challenged by such forward-thinking questions. They will also have the opportunity to discuss new initiatives for their own teaching, research and/or service commitments against a backdrop of national and international opportunities and challenges.

Summer 2012 Faculty Seminar

October 2012 E-News Article

10. The tenth Honors College Faculty Seminar, Developing and Evaluating Critical Thinking Skills, was held in the summer of 2013.

The tenth Honors College Faculty Seminar, was held August 12-14, 2013, brought faculty together to think critically about critical thinking. The participants examined concepts of critical thinking and the tools available for assessing them. They looked at evidence on the acquisition of critical thinking skills among college students and reflected on the various practices for developing these skills. Associate Professors Jacqueline (Jackie) S. Weinstock (Leadership & Developmental Sciences, College of Education and Social Services) and Jeffrey Hughes (Plant Biology, Rubenstein School of Environment and Natural Resources) led the seminar. Jackie studies how UVM undergraduates acquire critical thinking skills and the role of activities inside and outside the classroom in this process. Jeff teaches critical thinking techniques in his courses on environmental problem solving and has co-authored a book on this topic.

Summer 2013 Faculty Seminar

11. The eleventh Honors College Faculty Seminar,'Big Data': Engaging and Critiquing the Production of Knowledge in the Digital Age, was held in August of 2014.

This seminar lead by Professor Meghan Cope and Dean Mara Saule, included a keynote lecture on broad issues of scholarship in the digital age; presentations by UVM faculty engaging with 'big data' from across social sciences, the humanities, natural sciences, engineering, computer science, and medicine/health professions; demonstrations by information specialists and library faculty on topics of finding and organizing data, managing metadata, and using data portals; site visits to labs; and hands-on opportunities to learn about tools for visualizing and analyzing data, from computer maps to 3-D animations. The seminar concluded with a celebratory dinner hosted by President Sullivan.

'Big data' signifies massive sets of digital information of unprecedented volume, variety, and velocity, whose potential research applications are felt across disciplines. From the 'digital humanities' to medicine, from new empirical possibilities of 'crowdsourcing' to the human genome, scholars and students have new opportunities for exploring the world around them. They find growing records of every type of social, economic, political, medical, and physical process, as well as the digitization of the world's cultural artifacts. They are challenged ever more strongly to produce knowledge - not just information - about the world. To do so they need to synthesize information from diverse realms, generate insights by combining abstract conceptualizations with new empirical realities, and interact ethically with people and organizations. They are also faced with new questions about research practices. Scholars and information specialists are taking on new challenges regarding access, wise use, privacy, accuracy, and ethics.

In contrast to the methods of the 'big data' movement, scholars across disciplines have always explored what might be called 'small stories'. While large data sets may indicate broad and important patterns, the integrated analysis of specific cases, statistical outliers, unique biographies, and individual contexts can foster clear comprehension of contingent relations among people, places, events, and processes. The seminar will bring 'big data' and 'small stories' into conversation.

Summer 2014 Faculty Seminar

Last modified May 22 2015 10:52 AM